I woke up, and Queen Betty wasn’t beside me. This wasn’t entirely unusual, as she was probably enjoying hunting rats at the moment. I yawned softly, and stretched out on the bed. I opened my eyes, and nearly screamed. Betty was crouched over me, in such a way that she wasn’t quite touching. Her green eyes were bright and shining, and way too close. She was breathing so softly that I hadn’t even felt it against my skin. “Oh, good! You’re awake, Horace!” She smiled sweetly. “Breakfast time!” I peered sideways. The clock read 5:30 AM. I considered protesting, and thought better of it.
I sat at the computer, looking down at my badge. Sergeant Dane Larson. I’d been so proud when I’d made sergeant. Just like Dad had always dreamed. He’d been there at the ceremony. He’d died a few years later, in the line of duty. Then my hand strayed down to my stomach. The cuts were long-healed, but I still winced when I touched them. A phantom of the pain that had ripped through me when that creature had gutted me like a fish. I swore I’d never let something like that happen to one of the officers under my command. Not when I could still do something about it.
I stood in the entrance to the police station, holding the tape in my hand, and feeling slightly foolish. When I had seen the video of the dark creatures splattering on the ground, I had been certain that it was important. But I was slowly realizing, I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t have any contacts in the media, and the idea of going up to the local TV news station and presenting it as some kind of evidence struck me as a wonderful idea for a prank, but a very bad way to try to get information into the hands of the people who needed it. I had no credibility, and no one to show the information to. So, after a week, I had decided to settle for vindication. But standing here in the busy lobby, I wasn’t sure how to find who I was looking for. I settled for standing with a lost and confused look on my face. That’s when she approached me, and in a tone with absolutely no good humor in it at all, said “Hello, sweet-cheeks.”
I packed up my work at the office. Another long, dull day of copying, calling, and filling out forms. I had spent the day thinking about Queen Betty, and her odd warnings. She’d disappeared without a trace that morning, and I’d been worried and distracted at work, drawing my uncle’s ire. Even seeing her at lunch hadn’t helped. She was up to something dangerous, I knew, and though I’d only been taking care of her for a few days, she was still special to me. Maybe I was just afraid that she would disappear, like so many other things I’d cared about through the years.
I am Queen Betty. I have had many names, and when I was born, I didn’t have a name at all. I was the First Cat. And like all things First and all things Cat, I am the best. I started my day by indulging in a nap next to the human, Horace Creed. His body heat and his presence were pleasant, soothing away the aches in my old, arthritic bones. The steady rise and fall of his chest helped me to relax. It was the first time in a week I’d been able to calm down. The world was ending. I had been feeling it ever since the end of the summer. I didn’t know what had provoked the oncoming cataclysm. It didn’t matter. It only mattered that the time had come for me to be a guardian once more.
The door shattered, and a nightmare stood in the frame. I was in the copy room, working late into the night to print, collate, organize, and file all of the countless pieces of evidence the senior partner said absolutely had to be ready by tomorrow morning. I had been staring down at my phone while the ancient printer whirred and chugged in a losing battle against mechanical failure. There had been a soft, wet squelching noise, and a smell like motor oil. I’d dismissed it as either a sign the copier machine was in even worse shape than it looked, or I was about to have a stroke. I didn’t care either way. That’s when the wooden door separating me from the rest of the deserted office ripped messily in half. A large chunk of wood struck me in the head, knocking me to the ground.